The Death and Life of the Mafia in Italy

From Suppression by Mussolini to Revival by 'Liberation,' 1926-1946
Published: 1977-01-01

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James J. Martin graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1942 and received his M.A. (1945) and Ph.D. (1949) degrees in history from the University of Michigan. His teaching career has spanned 25 years and involved residence at educational institutions from coast to coast. Dr. Martin's books have included the two-volume classic, American Liberalism and World Politics, 1931-1941, as well as Beyond Pearl Harbor, The Man Who Invented 'Genocide': The Public Career and Consequences of Raphael Lemkin, and An American Adventure in Bookburning in the Style of 1918. He is also author of two collections of essays: Revisionist Viewpoints (1971) and The Saga of Hog Island and Other Essays in Inconvenient History (1977). Dr. Martin has also contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and is a three-time contributor to the Dictionary of American Biography.

This essay is a slightly abridged version of an essay that originally appeared in The Saga of Hog Island. It appears here by arrangement with the author.

Conservatives and liberals alike yield to florid raving when writing of Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism. In their books and articles and reviews of one another's books, there is usually cheerful agreement on the horrid sinfulness of "Il Duce," and unconcealed gloating at his overthrow (Winston Churchill rushed in to his dinner party, upon hearing of Mussolini's murder, exclaiming with gratification, "Ah, the bloody beast is dead!"), with an occasional murmur of unhappiness later on from those who realize how close Italy came to becoming, by default, a Stalinist client state.

In recent decades there has been much moaning about the incredibly bad condition of Italy's government since the eclipse of Fascism. At the same time it is conventional to make contemptuous references to any efforts asserting that Mussolini was responsible for anything good or valuable. Few commentators overcome the shams of modern ideological fuzz-sorting, and most Mussolini detractors end up producing a literature which resembles what might have been fished from the wastebaskets of the old US Communist party's Daily Worker.

Murder, Not Execution

The bias in favor of Communist explanations is perhaps best revealed in the established account concerning Mussolini's end. Invariably we read of him being "executed by partisans," though all should know better. Bushwhackers prowling behind the battle lines and self-appointed political opponents with foreign allegiance exploiting the disorder caused by war are not empowered to "execute" anyone. Mussolini was murdered by Italian Communists operating under Stalinist discipline.[1]

One of the consequences of the destruction of Mussolini and his regime was a prodigious rise in criminal activities in Italy, engineered by traditional organized criminal gangs which returned to their established activities when released from the confines of Mussolini's prisons. Dominating this development was the revivified Mafia, effectively subdued for over a decade before the arrival in 1943-44 of the Anglo-American armies, and suddenly back in business everywhere with the achievement of "liberation."

Distorted History

For a time, wounded ideologues were offended by the assertion that the Mafia had returned to former power and influence as a consequence of "Allied" policies. They sought to minimize the achievement of Mussolini's police in earlier decades by suggesting that the Mafia had been little disturbed in those days, thus managing to ignore all the substantive and widely available evidence to the contrary. How they explain the sudden prominence of the "Honored Society" immediately upon the scene coincident with the 1943 invasion of Sicily by Mussolini's enemies is substantially an essay in utter awkwardness. All the same, the literature which contradicts this line has been growing continually, and a steady re-adjustment has been taking place, despite repeated efforts to divert attention from the central importance of the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 in making the Mafia a power once more.

If the Mafia came ashore only figuratively in the landing craft and the tanks of the Anglo-American "liberators," there surely was much direct communication and supporting action between the Allied forces and the remnants of the Mafia in the path of the invasion during the first two weeks or so of the assault on the island.

With the passage of time and the publication of more realistic appraisals, it is ever more evident that this aspect of the story has been gravely exaggerated. What remains obscured is the story of how this all began, an embarrassment to most writers on the subject, who prefer to substitute for facts their ex post facto value judgments in harmony with a generation of liberal fixations.

While the authors of modern accounts of the Mafia are not all inclined to gloss over the vicious homicidal greed of the contemporary "Brotherhood," a note of plaintive wistfulness creeps into some of their narratives at the point where they deal with the collision between the Mussolini regime and the Mafia in Italy. The arrest and conviction of Mafiosi for hundreds of murders, among thousands of other crimes, becomes a bagatelle and an incidental. In their view, the central fact is the jostling of their "civil rights and liberties." It is unimportant that this large contingent of the world's most depraved criminals was locked up.

Forgotten Victims

Fascist Italy's police draw not a single word of commendation, but are cast as the villain in their effort to clear Sicily and southern Italy of the most deeply entrenched criminal enterprises in Europe. The real forgotten persons in these quasi-apologies for the Mafia are their noncriminal victims; it is almost impossible to read anything about them. Whatever the mawkish sentimentality aroused in behalf of the gangsters, one can generally be assured that their prey will remain nameless, the multitudes from whom they have robbed and extorted vast sums blithely ignored, and the legion they have slain effectively lost from the record.

The campaign of the Mussolini regime to extirpate the Mafia from Sicily began abruptly, though there is much doubt as to the motivation for it, and many details still evade students of this matter. September 25, 1926, is the date assigned for the formal initiation of the anti-Mafia program by the Encyclopedia of World History, which describes the Mafia as "a loose criminal organization which had dominated Sicilian politics for 50 years."[2] It was significant that the editors should make direct reference to the relationship between crime and politics; any kind of basic understanding of the former without a solid awareness of the realities of the latter, anywhere in the world, is unlikely.

Mussolini Cracks Down

Italian leader Benito Mussolini on the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia in Rome

On important occasions, Italian leader Benito Mussolini spoke to cheering crowds from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia in Rome.

However, September 25, 1926, is just the occasion when a bill was introduced in the Italian Chamber of Deputies for the suppression of the Mafia in Sicily.[3] The drive had actually begun almost five months earlier. On April 30, Mussolini's police had arrested 450 suspected Mafia in raids conducted simultaneously in a dozen cities and towns, fighting what were reported in the American newspapers as "pitched battles."[4] A New York Times feature article two days later identified the "boss" of the Mafia at that time as one Gaetano Ferrarello.[5] But this account was somewhat premature and innocent in announcing that Sicily was rid of these "bandits" "after 50 years of terror." Mussolini was quoted as declaring that "the wound of Sicilian criminality" would be "cauterized" "with iron and fire if necessary," and that his regime would "go to the very root of the matter regardless of anyone's feelings."[6]

Hundreds Convicted



In the year that followed, American newspapers gave little notice to this campaign. Doubtless it was a period of intensive investigation and preparation. But on October 22, 1927, the first result of the offensive was announced: a mass trial of Mafiosi began that followed a dragnet which scooped up more than 30 leaders at Termini Imerese.[7] This resulted, on January 11, 1928, in the conviction of 147 persons, seven of whom received life at hard labor, eight receiving sentences of 30 years, and an additional five getting 25 years.[8]

Though later writers conveniently overlooked the reported facts and tried to create the impression that the defendants were the victims of "drumhead" proceedings which trampled on their "civil rights," these defendants apparently had the opportunity and resources to hire a battery of 60 lawyers to head up their defense. Reporters concluded that the organization had now surely received its "death blow."[9]

Actually, Mussolini's assault on the Mafia had barely begun. On February 8, a new trial of 341 Mafia suspects began in Palermo,[10] followed by the arrest and trial, also in Palermo, of an additional 379 persons from Agrigento and Caltanisetto.[11] Some 500 police were involved in the latter case, in which the defendants were charged with, among other things, 500 major crimes, including 62 murders.

On March 7, 1928, the court at Termini Imerese convicted 67 more persons for various crimes, and sentenced them to terms of from two to 27 years.[12] Special penal farms were created on the Lipari Islands, off the north coast of Sicily, where these sentences were to be served.[13]

New York Times Applauds Mussolini

From this time on, feature articles on this sensational program crowded into the press of the world, and no newspaper outside Italy exceeded The New York Times in breadth of coverage. A column and a half story on January 16, 1928, trumpeted, "Breaking the backbone of the Mafia is one of Premier Mussolini's great achievements."[14] A Times editorial the following day praised the police executive responsible for directing this drive, Prefect Cesare Mori of Palermo, a veteran of almost 40 years of service in the Italian police. Said the Times, "Prefect Mori of Palermo, who has broken the back of the Mafia in Sicily, will go down in history as a deliverer and superman."[15]

The New York Times ultimately ran three commendatory profiles of Mori, probably the most admiring written by the paper's own correspondent, Arnaldo Cortesi, on March 4, 1928,[16] which also included a photograph of Mori and a picture of a group of alleged Mafia on trial, enclosed in a large cage. This tactic, employed a number of times during mass trials, was intended to protect the judge, witnesses and jury from personal attack from one or another of the defendants. Correspondent Cortesi concluded that police working under Prefect Mori had made arrests in 79 of 361 municipalities, totaling 1,086 men belonging to five gangs, and accused, among hundreds of serious crimes, of 357 murders alone. Between May 1926 and the end of March 1928 eleven policemen had been killed and another 350 wounded in what amounted to virtual battles with the Mafia.

Some narratives concerned with the suppression of the Mafia tend to be exclusively concerned with Sicily, and dream up fanciful reasons for this campaign,[17] Actually, it was part of a three-pronged effort to subdue organized crime as well on the island of Sardinia, and in Calabria, the three provinces in the "toe" of the Italian mainland "boot." A Times survey in early 1928 reported that Italian authorities considered the Sardinian crime rate to be double that of Sicily, with a murder rate of 24 per 100,000 population, as against Sicily's 16. As for Calabria, it was officially considered to have a crime rate higher than either Sicily or Sardinia, and observers were wondering when Mussolini would stretch the anti-crime drive there.[18]

Finding Refuge in America

Some social and political realities of the time during which this anti-Mafia onslaught took place have to be kept in mind, as well as some of the international implications. The swiftness and comprehensiveness of the drive headed by Prefect Mori caused grave disturbances among the Mafiosi, who responded not only in major gun battles with the police but also in flight to the Italian mainland and to the United States. Though the major Sicilian figures in the American branch of the Mafia had arrived well before 1926, as a result of Mussolini's drive the American gangs accumulated a considerable number of lesser hoodlums who found refuge in the United States from Italian police pursuit. The large number of Italians in the United States also made this country a convenient hiding place for this migrating criminal element.

The adoption in 1919 of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting alcoholic beverages had spawned a fantastic increase in opportunities to make a living by breaking the law.[19] Even though criminal gangs had been a part of urban America since the 1860s, the new opportunities presented by supplying the parched American appetite with illegal alcohol, and everything that went with it in the field of legally enjoined pleasures and diversions, gave organized crime a stimulus in the 1920s that could hardly have even been imagined earlier.

With Americans spending $100,000,000 a year abroad on alcohol by 1925,[20] it can be understood that those who decided they should spend such money on hard liquor at home knew what they were doing in developing the massive smuggling system that evolved in the 1923-1933 decade. The Mafia was just one part of the entire "bootlegging" scene, competing with other ethnic gangs of Irish, Jewish and assorted lesser organizations of different ancestry,[21] let alone the immense domestic group of native birth engaged in home manufacture and distribution of high voltage drink.[22]

In any case, the Mussolini effort to stamp out the Mafia contributed to the mobilization of Sicilian gangsters in the US. In a significant way these new arrivals also brought long-standing feuds and competition with them. Law enforcement authorities reported 527 gangster killings in the state of Illinois alone in 1928, part of this sharp rise traceable to the importation of ancient rivalries from Sicily.[23]

Though the criminals fleeing from Sicily did not make recourse to the ploy of claiming to be "political" persecutees, a claim so dear to killers and armed robbery and mayhem artists in the United States 50 years later, they did not shrink from involvement in political affairs if there was gain to be made from it. A number of Mafia "refugees" were known even to return to Italy early in 1927 to build a system to smuggle "anti-fascists" to France.[24]

No Death Penalty for Mafia Crimes

It has been seen that many of the convictions of Mafia in Sicilian courts were for homicide, but that no death sentences were handed down. During the first few years of Fascist rule, Italy had no capital punishment for any offense. This changed in November 1926 following the third assassination attempt on Mussolini in that same year. The regime proposed its reestablishment on November 5, and the Italian Senate approved it 15 days later.[25]

However, the death penalty was severely restricted to a very limited number of offenses: treason, espionage, armed rebellion, and attempts on the life of the head of state by an Italian native.[26] So no death penalty attached to Mafia criminals subsequently convicted of murder, and there were quite a few.

'Lucky' Luciano

"Lucky" Luciano

A remarkable decrease in crime in Italy and Sicily was reported by early 1929,[27] even as Prefect Mori's offensive bore on. As a consequence of an extended proceeding, 154 members of a Palermo gang were sent to prison on February 28, 1929.[28] Another major trial at Termini Imerese concluded after nine months, with a jury mulling over 7,000 questions. Part of the problem here was a consequence of the voluminous documentation supplied by the prosecution, which involved the vast captured correspondence of the Mafia chief in this case. This material not only demonstrated a serious involvement of Sicilian governmental authorities, but also revealed significant ties with Mafia in the United States. It ended on May 1, 1929, with a verdict of guilty for 150 of the 161 defendants.[29]

In 1930 another major trial took place in Sicily at Sciacca, involving 241 alleged Mafia accused of several hundred crimes, including 43 homicides. The prosecution eventually produced a small mountain of documentary evidence, which filled 69 boxes. Beginning in July 1930,[30] the trial dragged on until June 22, 1931, when it concluded with the conviction of 124 Mafia (the number of the defendants had shrunk from 241 to 178), 15 of the convicted receiving life sentences, and the 109 others receiving a total of 1,200 years in prison. The jury was out four days, and considered a total of 3,000 questions.[31] This Sciacca trial was considered the most sensational of the entire series, with the defendants sitting in three iron-barred cages throughout the court proceedings. It is worth noting that in this case as well, the defendants were hardly poverty-stricken peasants, but were represented by a substantial contingent of what were reputed to be highly paid lawyers.[32]

More US Praise for Anti-Mafia Campaign

Readers in the United States were treated in December 1930 to an eyewitness report on an Italian Mafia trial written by a well-known American magazine publisher, S. S. McClure, who was present at the beginning of a new Palermo trial. In a report that appeared in the New York Times, he mentioned that Prefect Mori had received four gold medals for his work in prosecuting the Mafia since 1926, and that during one recent year there had been 1,750 murders in Palermo alone. The Mori campaign had thus far resulted in roughly 2,000 arrests, and about half as many convictions, with the result, McClure stated, that "Today, in Sicily and Naples, and in all the regions heretofore plagued by the racketeer, there is absolute freedom from any form of extortion."[33]

By the end of 1931 Mussolini's drive to wipe out the Mafia was entering its final stages. Another big Palermo trial started on November 29 of that year, with the public prosecutor seeking jail sentences for between 165 and 200 of a somewhat larger group of defendants.[34] The trial lasted into Christmas week, and of an eventual 245 persons brought before the court, 141 were convicted on December 29, 1931.[35]

Only one trial drew attention in 1932, but it was another on the scale previously conducted at Sciacca. This one began in the early spring, at Agrigento. It was held in an improvised courtroom in the former monastery of Santo Spirito, with the defendants once more confined in a large barred cage. It concluded on May 2, 1932, with the sentencing of another 244 Mafia members to a total of 1,200 years in prison.[36] Six weeks later a special piece in The New York Times praised Italy as a country among the world's leaders in instituting penal reforms.[37]

Simultaneous with the campaign in Sicily, authorities were carrying out an anti-Mafia drive on the neighboring island of Sardinia as well as on the Italian mainland. On June 22, 1934, an electrifying raid took place on the mainland, largely in the towns of Cadeto, Gallino, Arno and Pellaro, all located on the "sole" of the Italian peninsular "boot." Some 400 Mafiosi were arrested in this swoop, the majority of whom, it turned out, had fled there from Sicily.[38] They had, as might be expected, returned to traditional "protection rackets," reported to be very heavy in Reggio Calabria as they had once been in Sicily. At the conclusion of their year-long trial, during which 1,000 witnesses appeared for the prosecution, an unspecified number of the defendants were given long prison terms.

By mid-1935, it may be assumed, the Mafia had been reduced to a thin shadow of its former self. By this time, priorities in Italy had profoundly shifted as Mussolini had begun Italy's quest for big-power status and a prominent position in the Mediterranean, as well as a belated role as an African colonial power. As a result of the growing hostility toward Mussolini and the Italian Fascist state in the English-speaking world, commendation of anything in Italy was no longer fashionable, and most of what was reported in the United States about domestic affairs in Italy concerned matters discreditable to the regime.[39]

The last mention in the New York Times of Italian prosecution of the Mafia prior to the outbreak of World War II was in November 1937. It reported on the arrest of 80 Mafiosi in Trapani and the contiguous areas of mountainous and relatively inaccessible western Sicily, who were subsequently arraigned in Messina.[40] Little background information was provided, other than a mention that the drive was a response to a "revival of Mafia activities." Nothing appeared subsequently in the Times on the outcome of this newest police move against the Sicilian Mafia.

Wartime Salvation for the Mafia

Since the central theme of this narrative concerns the Mafia in Sicily and Italy, with only incidental reference to various international relationships growing out of it, the history of the Mafia in America is not included here except where the interlocking consequences of their joint existence becomes obvious. Therefore the latter aspect has so far been treated only peripherally.

This changed with the Second World War, which brought the two together to an even greater degree than during the 1920s and 1930s, at least in their connection to international politics. As a consequence of the war, the Mafia became something more than a domestic phenomenon in both Italy and the United States. In Italy, what looked like extinction was turned around by the fortunes of the war, which became the salvation of the Mafia as a force in Italian affairs.

James J. Martin

James J. Martin

How this came about requires a summary of Mafia experiences in the United States in the decade between 1933, when Prohibition ended, and the 1943 Anglo-American invasion of Sicily as a phase of World War II. The re-legalization in 1933 of the manufacture, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages ended the phase of Mafia criminal opulence that resulted from violation of the previous legal prohibition of such enterprises. Undoubtedly things had begun to change in the relationships between the Mafia and the conventional world, and one of the major aspects of this was the steady penetration of legitimate business by Mafia money, influence and management, resulting in a degree of prosaic respectability which has grown steadily ever since.

Labor Union Corruption

Organized crime continued to make the bulk of its money from control of gambling, prostitution and the ever-expanding extortion or "protection" rackets, the latter much aided by the corruption of labor unions. None of this was affected adversely by the end of Prohibition. In fact, one of the new adjustments made by the Mafia was its substantial penetration of the new legitimate businesses supplying Americans with beer, wine and whiskey. Much of the latter two were imported, and the infiltration of the waterfront of the large port cities – originally a minor enterprise of organized crime – became a very large one. Port facilities, some longshoremen's unions, and all other functional aspects ultimately came under Mafia control. The preposterous incidents related to the extension of the war to Italy in the early 1940s came as a result of this situation.

There were two phases in the process whereby the Mafia achieved respectability through "cooperation" with the military and naval intelligence branches of the US war machine after American involvement in the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

One was recruitment by the famous wartime spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – ancestor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – and the alleged supply of information about Sicily deemed crucial to the invasion planners prior to this event in July 1943.

The other concerned alleged Mafia cooperation with US naval intelligence in alerting them as to the existence of German and Italian spies on the New York waterfront, and in preventing such enemy espionage from penetrating the dock areas and destroying ships or facilities, or perpetrating related sabotage.

'Operation Underworld'
US Government-Mafia Liaison

It now appears that such fears about enemy spies and saboteurs were assiduously encouraged by American Mafiosi, especially after the big French luxury liner Normandie burned and capsized at its pier in New York harbor in February 1942. The subsequent nervousness of US counterintelligence, and the fear that a series of such calamities might be in the offing led to establishing links with the Mafia, and the creation of something called "Operation Underworld," a loose liaison between US Naval Counter-Intelligence and various Mafiosi employed on or frequenting the wharves, in the interest of preventing anything else of this kind.

Actually, the Mafia itself may have purposely created the problem by destroying the French liner, as one of the two most notorious Mafia hoodlums in American history, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, charges in his memoir.[41] In any case, Italian or German agents had nothing to do with the calamity. In an exaggerated way, the Mafia had simply expanded its "protection" racket: in return for guarantees that no more such marine disasters would occur, they managed to provide themselves with an entree into the national defense area. The next step would be the groundwork for subsequent promises of extensive information and assistance in the American invasion of Sicily, which also came with a price. But to this day there is a thick shroud of official mystery over "Operation Underworld," and no government or service spokesmen have come forth to deny the substance of Luciano's allegations.

Wartime Mafia Enterprise

Another mystery is the effect of the Mafia's "cooperation" pose on political decisions within the Roosevelt regime, and whether this collaboration led to official disregard of domestic Mafia lawlessness, particularly its gambling activities and its tireless and expansive evasion of price controls, rationing and other wartime national and local economic restraints. The sums made by the Mafia through corrupting the ration stamp programs for gasoline, clothing and food, and the similar fortunes made providing scarce, forbidden or rationed products, have never been determined. This entire episode was largely papered over by New Deal economists and historians, who sought to sell the public the legend about how honestly and efficiently wartime price control and rationing had worked.[42]

Of a somewhat different nature is the story of US recruitment of the Mafia in preparing for the invasion of Sicily. This involved the actual placement of hoodlums in US intelligence services, and related soliciting of information from others who remained outside. In his revealing book, OSS, ex-CIA man R. Harris Smith discusses the selection of "Mafia types" for work with OSS operations in Italy, in what it called its "Operational Group Command."[43] Smith also pointed out that the OSS assembled rather formidable criminal muscle from two of the land's most notorious killer gangs: "Murder, Incorporated" of New York City, and the equally lethal "Purple Gang" of Detroit.[44]

Recruiting 'Lucky' Luciano

One aspect of this US government information-gathering from the Mafia in advance of the assault on Sicily is as shrouded in mystery as the aspect involving the mobilization of Mafia help in policing the New York docks. There are half a dozen differing accounts relating how US intelligence services went about seeking the favor of "Lucky" Luciano, with various henchmen emerging as the supposed key figure in the negotiations. In one account it is Frank Costello, in another Meyer Lansky. Still other criminal luminaries appear to have been the person responsible.

Mussolini's 'Autobiography' in May 1928 in 'The Saturday Evening Post'

Mussolini's Autobiography appeared in serial form in May 1928 in The Saturday Evening Post, one of America's most influential general-circulation magazines. Along with the first installment was an autographed photograph of Mussolini striding along an Italian seashore.

But in all the accounts two individuals always appear: Moses Polakoff, Luciano's principal legal advisor, and Murray R. Gurfein, a vigorous member of the team of prosecutors led by Thomas E. Dewey that brought about Luciano's conviction and jailing in 1936. Before the war Gurfein had been an assistant district attorney for the State of New York. After the war began, he was (according to some sources) affiliated with US Military Intelligence, and later in the war was reportedly an OSS Colonel.[45]

A Cultivated Legend

As time has passed, the secretive or embarrassing aspects of the Luciano case have gradually surfaced, along with a growing suspicion that there never was much of substance to stories of help provided by the Mafia to the US invasion forces. Far more important than any such help, it appears, was some labyrinthine proceeding related to Luciano's 1936 conviction.

In his own memoir, Luciano – in two separate and vehement scatological commentaries – denied having been of any assistance whatever to any branch of the armed services in the preparation or conduct of the Sicilian invasion.[46] He goes on to confess that he went along with the creation of this legend, knowing all the time that he was telling nothing but lies. (On one occasion, recalling a particularly spirited but fictitious retelling of the tale, in 1954, Luciano remarked in an aside that his theatrics in inventing imaginary details connected with his bogus part in the Sicilian invasion should have earned him an Academy Award.) In retrospect. the most lugubrious aspect of the entire Luciano/Sicily affair was the ludicrous patina of patriotism and related sentiments which it gradually acquired.

What Luciano knew about Sicily probably could have been supplied to US intelligence officials by anyone familiar with a library. As he protested later, he had been about nine years old when he emigrated from the island, and had no contacts there of any significance. In the large book that included his verbatim memoirs he mentioned only a single Mafia figure known to have survived the Mussolini suppression campaign in Italy or Sicily. This was Vito Genovese, an equally notorious American Mafia associate who had returned to Italy in 1937 to escape prosecution after Luciano's conviction, and for whom Luciano expressed unbounded distaste.

Luciano asserted that the entire thing had been fabricated to provide a cover for his pardon by Thomas Dewey – who was elected governor of New York in 1942 after his sensational career as a prosecuting district attorney proceeding against organized crime. Luciano maintained that he had been framed by Dewey's office, that the prostitution ring that flourished under his aegis was a "moonlighting" operation carried out by underlings, about which he knew nothing, and that his conviction had been made possible by perjured testimony on the part of women who claimed relationships with him that were totally imaginary. Luciano further stated that after his conviction his lawyers patiently went about confronting these witnesses, and secured from each of them an affidavit admitting that they had been encouraged to lie about Luciano in return for promises of luxurious vacations and other "fringe benefits," most of which never had been made good, thus embittering them against the prosecution.

When Luciano was convicted in 1936, a stipulation in his sentence provided that he was to be deported upon completion of serving his sentence,[47] originally 30 to 50 years, to be served in the bleakest of the New York state penitentiaries, Dannemora. So his ultimate deportation was not in question; it was only a question of when this might happen. Luciano and Polakoff contended that even before the war was well along they had sufficient new evidence and affidavits of relapsed witnesses to begin proceedings against Dewey and his cooperating staff for a gigantic rigging of his case, based on subornation involving all key witnesses. With Dewey, who was now Governor of New York, and those connected with him knowing all this, of course, the next step therefore was an effort to hurry along a pardon so that deportation proceedings could be swiftly pursued and the whole impending scandal averted.[48]

The New York 'Journal-American,' July 12, 1943

The New York "Journal-American," July 12, 1943, reports on the progress of American troops in the joint US, British and Canadian invasion of Sicily. In their occupation of the Italian island, Allied forces quickly gave authority to Mafia figures, who were trusted as "anti-Fascists."

At this point the blending of the keep-the-waterfront-free-from-saboteurs and the aid-the-invasion-of-Sicily enterprises involving the Mafia took place, and Luciano's underworld friends with high political and other connections began the measures that were to lead to Luciano's pardon and deportation shortly after the end of World War II. The sudden change in Luciano's domicile from Dannemora to the somewhat more salubrious circumstances of Great Meadow prison at Comstock (near Albany) was the most instructive indication that an understanding between organized crime and US armed forces intelligence operatives had been fleshed out. From 1942 on, secret meetings between Luciano and youthful Lieut. Commander Charles R. Haffenden took place at Comstock prison. At the same time a stream of Mafia underworld figures also appeared regularly for audiences with Luciano, appropriately explained as part of the "Operation Underworld" operations to keep the New York waterfront free of Axis subversives.

Charles 'Lucky' Luciano

Charles "Lucky" Luciano, in Italy following his pardon and deportation from the United States in 1946. During the early 1930s he organized the national crime syndicate in the US, ruling as the Mafia's "Boss of All Bosses." In 1936 he was convicted and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment, but served only ten.

In the meantime the Office of Strategic Services went about creating its own team of spies and assistance elements for work in Sicily,[49] though Allied Intelligence in North Africa was not entranced with the quality of information it had been receiving in the period immediately preceding the invasion. According to one authoritative account, during that crucial time all native informers were ignored except those with Sicilian Mafia associates.[50]

Fables of Mafia Assistance

The literature and stories concerning the fabled assistance furnished by the Mafia in the Anglo-American assault on Sicily is confusing and contradictory. The failure of anyone ever to put on the record any convincing facts, and the persisting vague and mock-mysterious abstruseness about it all has encouraged the suspicion that much of the episode was fabricated. This further strengthens the belief that not only was Luciano telling the truth when he disclaimed having the slightest thing to do with providing information helpful to the Sicilian operation, but that little if any help was received from any other Mafia figure either, whether living in the USA or Sicily.

It took the Allies only 39 days to overrun Sicily – July 10 to August 18, 1943. The part taken easiest was the western half of the island, reputedly that area where the vestiges of the Mafia survived underground. But in what was essentially a military operation undertaken with overwhelming force, one must assume that the help supplied by a ragtag band of criminals infiltrated in the civilian population would of necessity be nominal, if perceptible.

Some recent sources still assert that Luciano supplied invasion officers with contacts with Sicily's only unjailed Mafia chief of any substance, Don Calogero Vizzini, as well as with Genco Russo, overseer of the immense land holdings in western Sicily of Prince Raimondo Lanza di Trabia. (Di Trabia was the personal aide to Major General Giacomo Carboni, one-time chief of the Italian Military Intelligence Service, and one of the chief plotters behind the original deposition of Mussolini. Carboni was put in command of the mobile defense force for the city of Rome on July 14, 1943.)[51]

Luciano's repudiation of any involvement of this kind, as well as the failure of him and his literary collaborators, Gosch and Hammer, even to mention Vizzini's name in a book of almost 500 pages, must be viewed as corroborating support for Luciano's insistence on total non-participation.

At any rate, a plethora of fantastic stories connecting Luciano with one aspect or another of the Sicilian campaign is still with us. World War II British army officer Norman Lewis, in his book The Honored Society: A Searching Look at the Mafia, asserted that Allied tanks went ashore actually flying yellow flags bearing the black letter "L," which purportedly stood for Luciano.[52] Probably the most astounding of these fables alleges that Luciano himself was part of the invasion forces, despite unchallengeable evidence that the influential Mafia chief was ensconced in his cell at Great Meadows penitentiary throughout the operation.[53]

Allied 'New Order' in Sicily

In contrast to the opaque evanescence attending the alleged intelligence and strategic genius of the Mafia prior to the attack on Sicily, we have more solid information about the political new order established in the wake of the Allied military operations. Allied military and occupation leaders were soon emptying the prisons and labor camps of the Mussolini regime,[54] eventually turning loose upon Sicily and southern Italy a legion of convicted murderers, robbers and extortionists, as well as setting them up in business as the mayors of a long string of Sicilian communities – "Mafiosi to a man," as Lewis puts it. To justify loosing the Mafia from jail, the Allied policy makers invented the notion that they were "victims of fascist tyranny,"[55] thus converting them into instant political prisoners, though what they really accomplished was the rebuilding of the Mafia's "state within a state," as Lewis described their pre-1926 enclave.[56]

Vito Genovese

Vito Genovese

It should thus have come as no surprise to anyone, least of all the Anglo-American forces, that intricately integrated organized crime was flourishing in Sicily within a few weeks of "liberation."[57]

The "liberators" brought something else in their train besides the Mafia: a rocketing inflation and an accompanying black market which dwarfed that which prevailed under Mussolini. The predecessor of each had already been seen in North Africa, where they had achieved memorable dimensions. The monetary disorder resulting from Anglo-American policies there had even brought a scolding in Business Week: "The US and British have yet to learn what the Germans have taught; occupation is made easier if money rates are unchanged or altered in favor of the local people."[58]

'Liberation' Realities

Given that the American branch of the Mafia had squirreled away a vast fortune through their major hand in the stateside black market, it was not out of character that the revivified Sicilian and Italian Mafia, when given the chance, would promptly follow in their steps. A foundation was provided by the combination of ridiculous debasement of the money system and the mountain of desirable products brought to the Mediterranean by the occupation forces. The stealing of supplies from the Anglo-American forces or the bribing of personnel to supply them became a major Mafia industry.[59]

After a period of innocent wonderment, occupation police began to react. In general, though, it might have been easier to bail out the Mediterranean with a sieve than to eliminate the black market flourishing on all sides. Nevertheless a brave attempt was made. On September 9, 1943, authorities reported the arrest in Sicily of two Mafia chiefs, Domenico Tomaselli and Giuseppe Piraino, in a coup that allegedly smashed black market operations there.[60]

Mafia Revival Blamed on Fascism

In an effort to divert responsibility it was also alleged that the Fascists had mobilized the Mafia in its own aid,[61] though this sharply contradicted the program of release from Mussolini's prisons and penal camps of the very people who were supposed to be in Fascism's employ. This convenient line appealed to liberals, however, and was still being repeated decades later.

But blaming Mussolini did nothing to slow the sustained progress of the Mafia and the black market. A year later a succession of dispatches from Sicily reported that the Mafia were rampant in Sicily.[62] The gang system had reappeared, and Palermo was once more the scene of numerous holdups and kidnappings, while repeated press commentaries outlined the scope of the familiar outrages.[63] By the end of October 1944, most Sicilian communities were so insecure that virtually no one could be found to travel outside their perimeters at night, a situation that repeated, under far different circumstances, the realities of Europe's walled towns of the 12th century.

In early 1945 the Mafia was reported affluent and flourishing on the crest of a major Sicilian crime wave,[64] while a succession of sensational New York Times reports[65] told of the spread of gangsterism to Rome – another accompaniment to the advance of the "liberation" up the Italian mainland.

Vito Genovese and the Allies

During these expectable developments came the announcement in November 1944 that one of the most elusive and secretive of all of America's Mafia leaders, Vito Genovese, had been arrested by Army occupation police.[66] They had been working in collaboration with stateside authorities in connection with the unsolved murder in Brooklyn some years earlier of a minor Mafia hoodlum named Boccia. Genovese was "discovered" living in a luxurious apartment in Naples, and working as an interpreter for and advisor to the US Military Government, with high-level clearance and passes authorizing him to travel anywhere in Allied-controlled Italy.[67]

Local authorities had instituted the search for Genovese, who had quietly left the USA for Italy in 1937 in the wake of the conviction of Luciano, expecting to be next on the Dewey prosecution list.[68]

In Naples, where local authorities were cooperating with the US Military Government, Genovese was under investigation for his role in running a formidable black market operation since at least the "Allied" occupation of the area.[69] He had been operating right under the noses of the naive military governors with whom he worked in close collaboration almost daily, and who considered his aid and service indispensable.[70] It is probably as a reaction to the embarrassment that followed that an effort was made to try to conceal the realities of the moment by implying that Genovese had shady political ties with the overthrown Fascists, and that he had done the same things under Fascist aegis that were being uncovered under the new "liberation" regime. One energetic Army counterintelligence bloodhound even tried to portray Genovese as a German spy.

Historians View the Mafia

The succession of books about the history and development of the Mafia manages to tell us little. Each writer cannibalizes his predecessors and the same story reappears over and over again, embellished sometimes with fictional overtones. They are obsessed with how the Mafiosi treat one another, and devote much space to gory blow-by-blow accounts of how the various subdivisions of this collection of super-robber/super-murderer elements conduct mutual massacres. Few accounts of the Mafia tell us much about how they poison the communities in which they live and what they do to those who are not part of their low enterprise.

Another aspect that the chroniclers of the Mafia dwell very lightly upon is the intimate connection between them and the various levels of government. It becomes obvious very quickly even to persons of limited intelligence that the Mafia could survive but a short time without the open and conscious relationship with props in the political world. It also appears that every time a searching inquiry is made into the Mafia or Syndicate, it is soon revealed that tendrils and creepers lead toward state governors' mansions and legislatures, and also the national Congress. The intimacy with county and local government promptly is demonstrated to be a subject almost too wide in scope to describe in any reasonable length of time or convenient amount of printed paper.

A few hints are given out regarding the billions amassed by the Mafia during wars, the boodle collected in 1941-45 apparently being the capital base for the dramatic expansion of Mafia/Syndicate strength and presence in the subsequent two decades. But we have no decent study of this incredible event, just tiny references which are made almost in the nature of asides. Joe Valachi, in Peter Maas, The Valachi Papers (New York: Putnam, 1969), began to describe the small fortune he made evading the economic legislation and controls of the wartime Roosevelt regime, but was diverted to other matters. Other than that direct testimony we have nearly nothing except what can be inferred from the total situation. But a sum of money is involved which must leave most anyone almost breathless, even in an age of marked inflation. What are badly needed are economic histories of the Mafia and some companion studies of their interlocked ties with all manner of politicians, and a diminution of the recountings of their homicidal interrelationships. It is commonplace to note that Mafia are frequently found to be operating businesses which require political certification in the form of licenses and franchises, some of which may be virtually official monopolies.

Luciano boasted of being an important factor in the election of more than 80 politicians, from aldermen to senators, in the 1920s alone, as well as claiming the Mafia delivered the New York State delegation at the 1932 Democratic Party presidential convention to Franklin D. Roosevelt, expecting to receive in return the calling off of the investigation into organized crime then going on in New York headed by Judge Samuel Seabury. Apparently underlings promised more than they could deliver, and Luciano declared that from then on the Mafia made no political deliveries prior to a quid pro quo. (See Martin A. Gosch and Richard Hammer, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano [New York: Dell paperback edition, 1976], Chapters 14-18.)

– J.J.M.

Still unexplained is the agonizingly slow movement of the extradition proceedings, and the discreet burying of the whole matter for many months after his arrest. Six months after his apprehension Genovese was still in Italy, and he did not arrive in America until June 2, 1945.[71] During his arraignment on a charge of complicity in the 1934 murder of Boccia, Genovese pleaded innocent. (His attorney was Hyman Barshay, counsel years earlier for the sinister killer Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, a key figure in the "Murder, Incorporated" gang.)[72]

The dismissal of the charges against Genovese (on grounds of insufficient evidence, following the death while in jail of a key prosecution witness), is incidental to this account.[73] In the years that followed, an immense tale grew up around Genovese and what he had been doing in Italy between 1937 and 1944, much of it based on not very credible assertions by hostile fellow gangsters, and his estranged wife during her testimony in divorce proceedings in 1952.

These versions tried to portray Genovese as a celebrity in Fascist regime during the years between his return to Italy in 1937 and his arrest in 1944. While all manner of wondrous involvements were attributed to him, none of these accounts alleged that he had anything to do with the Sicilian Mafia vestiges in those years, or that he was the spark behind the rebirth of organized crime all through the region which fell to the Anglo-American armed forces beginning in midsummer of 1943.[74]

Clemency for Luciano

In May 1945, just as hostilities were ceasing in Europe, attorneys for "Lucky" Luciano entered his petition for clemency before Governor Dewey.[75] Another tangled tale is connected with the events related to the eventual pardon and deportation of Luciano. His lawyer, Polakoff, was the first to tell the story to the press of Luciano's alleged assistance to the Mediterranean warriors, and naming Gurfein as the key person who had suggested that Luciano's aid be recruited. Polakoff was quoted as saying: "Through information the convict [Luciano] furnished the military from his cell in Great Meadows prison in 1942, many Sicilian-born Italians furnished information regarding the conditions in Sicily that was helpful to the armed forces in the invasion."[76]

Allied proclamation in occupied Sicily

Under supervision of an Allied soldier, a policeman in Sicily posts "Proclamation No. 1" of the Allied Military Government. Another Allied notice posted at this same time ordered Sicilians to turn over their firearms to the occupation authorities.

Governor Dewey was ambivalent about the case. On January 3, 1946, in a comment on Luciano's cooperation with the armed forces, he added, "the actual value of the information procured is not clear."[77] Dewey's attitude was somewhat more positive a few weeks later. He cited Luciano's usefulness to the US Army in the Sicilian invasion as the reason for the pardon[78] – a measure that many continued to think was far too hasty and precipitate.

For some time the responsibility for the action was traded back and forth between Dewey and the New York State Parole Board, and the subject was to become an issue of fitful significance for years thereafter. Luciano was deported a few days after his pardon. The story of his return to Italy on a small ship, and arrival in Naples on the last day of February 1946 has been retold many times.[79]

US Fifth Army tanks roar by the ancient Colloseum

As citizens of Rome look on, US Fifth Army tanks roar by the ancient Colloseum as they begin to occupy the Italian capital. Allied occupation of Italy was a mixed blessing.

Luciano's reappearance in the Western Hemisphere the following year, culminating in a gathering in Cuba of major Mafia figures, led to another round of unhappy commentaries on Dewey's action in his behalf. Once again the press interviewed Gurfein and Haffenden about Luciano's wartime role in furnishing counterintelligence and other aid.[80] Now his role was being designated as "alleged," and the more hyperthyroid sentiments that had been expressed in 1945 and 1946 were no longer heard. Observations about Luciano in February 1947 were drastically subdued and discounted compared to those a year earlier.[81]

Governor Thomas Dewey remained under clouds of suspicion for years, with persistent charges of having made enigmatic deals. His troubles over the Luciano pardon accelerated. When Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee began to assemble his machine for the much-publicized investigation of organized crime in America in 1951, he contributed to the tangle of allegations with the charge that Dewey's commutation of Luciano's sentence was not justified.[82]

Postwar 'Banditry' in Sicily

While military and political figures, and the press, were trying to decide whether or not Luciano should be enshrined by history as a patriot, the Italian mainland and Sicily were putting up with the mixed blessings of the new order brought to their midst by the Occupation. Another big crime wave swept both in January and February 1946,[83] while in Sicily the term "banditry" became the common euphemism for renewed Mafia labors.[84] Ultimately the mixture of liberal leftists (notably in the Christian Democratic Party) and social democrats that US occupation policy decreed should be Italy's new leadership found they were obliged to use the same strategy Mussolini had employed in putting down widespread organized crime. Ultimately, though, they used far more force in doing so than "Il Duce" ever employed in supporting the campaigns of Prefect Mori.

Though Mori had engaged in open warfare with the Mafia and fought encounters that involved enough men to rate as battles if they had taken place between rival States, the situation facing post-1945 Italy turned out to be considerably worse. It mainly revolved around the celebrated Salvatore Giuliani and his followers. Between 1946 and 1950, he became the best known Sicilian "bandit" of the entire modern era, and he and his followers earned as much space in the newspapers of the world as many of the global politicians in those first few years of the burgeoning Cold War.

To suppress Giuliani and his "bandits," the postwar Italian government dedicated considerable resources. By the spring of 1949, 8,000 heavily armed paramilitary carabinieri police were fighting Giuliani's small band in virtual guerilla warfare that dragged on for months, and on a scale that made Mussolini's efforts of 1926-1934 look like mere outings by comparison.[85]

In the meantime the Mafia went about its quiet and diligent mending of fences, reestablishing control and influence and amassing substance on a scale again which outdid anything enjoyed before 1926 by many magnitudes, a total program that dovetailed with the conventional world of business and politics to the point where only experts could distinguish the component parts of the total situation.[86]

In both Europe and the United States, the approach to social order that has evolved in liberal circles looks upon a certain level of mayhem as an endurable price to pay for a "free society." This novel view is supposed to explain and rationalize whatever may be prevailing in a culture that makes it incapable of controlling murder, aggravated assault and rape. After demonstrating ineptitude in law enforcement long enough, those in power offer plausible excuses to convince the unhappy that what prevails should be considered the "normal" or "moderate" response. In a cultural environment where such a climate of opinion prevails, it can be taken almost for granted that law enforcement such as that exemplified by Mussolini in reducing the Sicilian Mafia will always be deplored and reasons found to denounce it as infamous.

Editorial Note, Dec. 24, 2014

Today CODOH received the following email about the above paper:

Dear Sir, I am writing about, to draw your attention to, contrary to what is asserted by the author, there is at least one inculpatory document, a report forwarded in October 1943 by captain W. E. Scotten (Military Intelligence) to the Brigadier General Julius Cecil Holmes, six pages kept in the National Archives in Kew Gardens, near London, which provide evidence of an agreement sought by US and British secret agents with the Sicilian Mafia. This document was first published by the historian Rosario Mangiameli in 1980 in 'Annali della facoltà di Scienze politiche’ of the University of Catania. BFO File n° 371/37327. Regards, BC


[1]The best description of this sordid affair is by two collaborators with the Reds in northern Italy, Pier Luigi Bellini delle Stelle and Urbano Lazzaro, in their book Dongo: The Last Act, first published in Italy in 1962, and in London two years later. The role played by Italy's loyal Stalinists in the Mussolini murder has been a part of the public record since the Rome newspaper l'Unita in 1945, and in greater detail in 1947, revealed that the Italian Communist Party leader Palmiro 'Ibgliatti, brought back to Italy by Americans late in 1944, issued orders through party headquarters to shoot Mussolini and other Fascist leaders immediately upon capture. New York Times, March 9, 1947, p. 18. Two weeks later, Walter Audisio, using the wartime pseudonym "Colonel Valerio," was identified as Mussolini's "executioner." He tried to implicate US Military Governor Charles Poletti, a one-time lieutenant governor of the state of New York, as having approved in advance the murder of Mussolini and the Fascist party chief, Achille Starace. Poletti heatedly denied Audisio's allegation. New York Times, March 23, 1947, p. 5, March 31,1947, p. 5, April 1, 1947, p. 18. Audisio was subsequently rewarded with a seat in the postwar Italian chamber of deputies, remaining until his death on October 11, 1973 at the age of 64. See obituarial note in New York Times, Oct. 13, 1973, p. 38, and Associated Press report on his part in Mussolini's murder in Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, Oct. 12, 1973, p. 3-C. Especially useful for other aspects of the above matters is Luigi Villari, The Liberation of Italy, 1943-1947 (Appleton, Wisc.: C. C. Nelson, 1959.)
Partisan fighter Urbano Lazzaro, who helped capture Mussolini and was supposedly involved in his "execution," provides a different account in an April 1995 article in the Italian magazine Panorama. Lazzaro writes that the Duce was accidentally killed several hours before his staged "execution." See "Mussolini's execution staged, partisan says," (Reuter's dispatch) in Orange County Register (Calif.), April 29, 1995.
[2]Rev. ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948, p. 989.
[3]New York Times, Sept. 26, 1926, p. 24.
[4]New York Times, May 1, 1926, p. 1.
[5]5\. New York Times, May 2, 1926, see. IX, p. 11.
[6]6\. New York Times, May 1, 1926, p. 1.
[7]New York Times, Oct. 23, 1927, sec. III, p. 1.
[8]New York Times, Jan. 12, 1928, p. 3. 10.
[9]New York Times, Jan. 22, 1928, see. IX, p. 2.
[10]New York Times, Feb. 9, 1928, p. 1.
[11]New York Times, March 7, 1928, p. 6.
[12]New York Times, March 8, 1928, p. 6.
[13]One finds an occasional account which seeks to describe the Lipari Islands penal camps as versions of Devil's Island, but they were resorts compared to those already long established in the Soviet Union. The Italian camps were far from escape-proof, nor were all those sentenced to serve time there kept for their full time. Escapes and reduction of sentences were hardly unknown as the program was expanded.
[14]New York Times, Jan. 16, 1928, p. 5.
[15]"Mori's War on the Mafia," New York Times, Jan. 17, 1928, p.28.
[16]A. Cortesi, "The Mafia Dead, A New Sicily Born," New York Times, March 4, 1928, sec. V. pp. 10-11. See also the major stories on Mori in New York Times, Jan. 22, 1928, sec. IX, p. 2 and March 11, 1928, sec. III, p. 5. Many times decorated for his campaign against the Mafia, Mori died in 1942.
[17]Gay Talese, in his extremely popular best-seller, Honor Thy Father (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Books, 1971), alleges that Mussolini began the drive to wipe out the Mafia because on a visit there his hat had been stolen, and that he was outraged later by the patronizing attitude of a local official who was also a member of the Mafia. Talese perhaps more than any other recent writer on the Mafia has been most offended by the Mussolini anti-Mafia program, and has sought to pose them as heroes of a sort, rationalizing their resistance as some kind of political guerrilla warfare and ultimately seeking to elevate them to a kind of patriot status on the basis of their behavior in World War II.
The effort to attribute patriotic and politically ideologic qualities to the Mafia in World War II does not wash. Talese admits (p. 488) that no Mafia can survive without government collusion and support. Mussolini put it out of business in a short time, and even in a Cuba which rivaled Sicily in poverty, the Mafia was swiftly run out of its entrenched positionin a matter of days by the Castro revolution. The Mafia's willingness to cooperate with the USA to do in the Communist Castro was barely distinguishable from its calculated readiness earlier to work with the same USA to do in the Fascist Mussolini. Ideology was a light year away from the central core of the issue, which was the hope of overturning a non-cooperating political establishment and the expectation of having it replaced by one which would tolerate at least some attenuated level of mutual existence with organized crime.
[18]"Mussolini Aims Drive on Sardinian Bandits," New York Times, Feb. 19. 1928, p. 5. This aspect of the program is the worst-reported of all, and the record is badly documented. It may be assumed to have been as successful as the others, however. The veteran writer on Italian affairs, Melton S. Davis, in his Who Defends Rome? The Forty-five Days, July 25 to September 8, 1943 (New York: Dial Press, 1972), mentioned specifically that at the time of the 1943 invasion of Sicily, "there was no Mafia in Sardinia" (p. 258).
With respect to the acljoining island of Corsica, a French department north of Sardinia, it was fully as notorious as Sicily and Sardinia as a sanctuary of organized crime, and in the eyes of criminals themselves, perhaps even more formidable. Charles "Lucky" Luciano, referring to the consequences of the opening up of Cuba to Mafia-Syndicate gambling via the ministrations of Meyer Lansky, to the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1933, and the subsequent spread to Nassau and other Caribbean locations, felt that Mafia operations would soon expand to European sites as well. However he shrank from the thought of a "war" with the Corsicans, whom he characterized as "real cannibals" compared to anything the American-based organized crime rings had come up with when it came to the application of violence. That anyone could impress Luciano concerning the revolting conditions that attended their murderous enterprise is indeed an impressive tribute to the Corsican underworld, if distinctions of this sort can be deemed worthy of notice. See Martin A. Gosch and Richard Hammer, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano (New York: Dell paperback edition, 1976), pp. 172-173. On collaboration between the Corsican criminal element and the American intelligence organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), see note 49.
[19]In the 1920s it took on an average of 60 columns of tiny print just to list the articles dealing with Prohibition and its violation and enforcement in the annual issues of the New York Times Index. It is to be understood that the local press of the nation covered a prodigious number of stories on the same subject which never found their way into the Times. It is probable that a full history of Prohibition would be so bulky it might take a fork lift to get it off the ground.
[20]New York Times, May 31, 1925.
[21]Organized crime related to Prohibition was a m!\ior factor in the land prior to public awareness of the big gangs involved in profiting from its evasion, an awareness probably taking place at about the time the gang leader Dion O'Banion was murdered in Chicago on November 10, 1924. The ferocious stand-off between and ultimate cooperation among the Mafia and the m!\ior Jewish racketeers, the gangwars of the 1920s and 1930s and the emergence of what has been known for years as the "Kosher Nostra" are well described by Hank Messick in his absorbing book Lansky (rev. ed., Berkley Medallion Books, 1973); they are examined in their recent activities by the columnist Jack Anderson in his report '"Kosher N ostra' in the Promised Land," published in most newspapers carrying his column on December 31, 1971, largely concerned with the efforts of "a disturbing number of Jewish racketeers" to turn Israel into "a criminal sanctuary."
[22]Not to be identified with the independent Midwestern and Southern bootleggers of the first decade of Prohibition are the bank robbers and kidnappers of the early 1930s, from the same regions, in the main, memorialized in the book by Lew Louderback, The Bad Ones (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Books, 1968). One can grasp the obviously superior effectiveness of crime working with sympathetic police and politicians, as in the case of the Mafia/Syndicate, as compared with the defiant loners against the world, in the persons of John Dillinger, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Clyde Barrow, "Machine Gun" Kelly, "Ma" Barker, Alvin Karpis and "Baby Face" N elson.
[23]New York Times, Dec. 25, 1928, p. 10.
[24]On the arrest of five returned bootleggers in Naples engaged in this enterprise see New York Times, Feb. 15, 1927, p. 5. Most of the plots against Mussolini were hatched by Italian refugees in France, which was also the destination of some ' of the Mafia escaping from the Lipari Islands penal camps. On the recapture of Lipari Islands escapees and their retrial see New York Times, Jan. 23, 1930, p. 4.
A related aspect of Mafia undertakings which has almost disappeared from the record in recent accounts is aliensmuggling. When the big Mafia capo Salvatore Maranzano was murdered in New York on September 10, 1931 there were two separate investigations which followed: one by local authorities seeking his killers, estimated to be from four to six men, depending upon which account one reads, and the other by the federal government exploring his aliensmuggling business. An illegal alien himself, Maranzano had built a rather wide-ranging operation and the New York Times in the fall of 1931 boiled with stories on the big aliensmuggling apparatus uncovered, tendrils of which were traced to Canada and as far away as Germany. It was revealed that Maranzano had corresponded with U.S. immigration officials earlier on the subject, and for awhile at least the latter were more interested in this matter than they were in finding who had killed him. One witness interviewed by the federal investigators declared that there had been twelve witnesses to his murder. New York Times, September 26, 1931, p. 4.
[25]New York Times , Nov. 6, 1926, p. 1; Nov. 21, 1926, p. 16.
[26]Mussolini was shot and slightly wounded on April 6, 1926, as he emerged from a speech-making appearance in a public building in Rome. New York Times, April 7, 1926, p. 1.
[27]New York Times, Jan. 14, 1929, p. 7.
[28]New York Times, March I, 1929, p. 10. Four members of the gang were repqrted to have died while awaiting the outcome of the trial.
[29]New York Times, May 2, 1929, p. 2. On the significance of the revelations that the convicted had cooperated with the Mafia inAmerica, see New York Times, May 5,1929, sec. III, p. 3.
[30]New York Times, July 5, 1930, p. 7; July 8, 1930, p. 4.
[31]New York Times, June 23, 1931, p. 1; "Mafia is Further Weakened by Many New Convictions," New York Times, June 28, 1931, see. VIII, p. 15. It was stated in the latter account that there had been 450 convictions since mid-1928.
[32]One would never know from reading Talese's Honor Thy Father that the Mafia were subject to formal trial before traditional courts under Italian law and were represented by substantial entourages of defense lawyers. He dismisses the crackdown on the Mafia as a mere "campaign of terror" which consisted mainly of "torturing" suspects and of killing a great many of them "without a fair trial." In view of the heavy coverage of the entire campaign in the New York Times, Talese's employer when he wrote the above book, it appears that he effectively avoided consulting the record in the press contemporary with the events.
Mario Puzo, in his novel The Godfather (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Books, 1969), another immensely popular volume built around the Mafia, preceded Talese in suggesting that the Mussolini drive starting in 1926 simply authorized the arbitrary arrest of anyone suspected of being a mafioso, while alleging that many "innocent families" were "brought ruin" as a result. Prefect Mori is honestly represented as "a high police official," but one would also never know from this book that at least halfofthe persons brought to trial between 1926 and 1934 were found innocent: they hardly were all thrown into jail or deported to penal work colonies without exception (pp. 277-278).
[33]New York Times, Dec. 7, 1930, sec. III, p. 2. In Honor Thy Father, Talese impugns Mori, and conveys the impression he was an ex-policeman, and, by inference, nothing but a coarse goon hired by "fascist thugs," rather than a career policeman who had served under several regimes prior to that of Mussolini, who, after all, was the recognized chief of state. Talese's cavalier brush-off of Mori stands in strange comparison to the numerous contemporary tributes to the latter's competence and devotion to duty while in serious danger to his own life from Mafia killers. These accolades, such as that of McClure, made their way into the press of the world outside of Italy on a substantial scale, the most flattering perhaps appearing in the pages of the New York Times. Talese also delicately avoids mentioning the substantial number of Italian police who were killed or injured by Mafia gunmen during this virtual civil war in Sicily.
An earlier writer, Frederic Sondern, was somewhat more fair in his estimate. He identified Mori correctly and described him as "able" and "energetic," admitting he had a difficult job, yet Sondern also called the trials in Sicily "drumhead" affairs. But he concludes that Mafia activities "ceased almost entirely," and that the "extortion rackets, robberies, smuggling, feuds and murders dipped sharply." In addition to the Lipari Islands, Sondern stated that some of the convicted Mafia were sent to Ustica, a small volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 40 miles north-northwest of Palermo, and administered by Palermo province. Sondern, "How the Mafia Came to America," in Nicholas Gage, ed., Mafia, U.S.A. (Chicago: Playboy Press, 1972), pp. 78-79.
[34] New York Times, Nov. 30, 1931, p. 4.
[35]Delayed commentary on the convictions appeared in the New York Times, May 3, 1932, p. 10.
[36]New York Times, above.
[37]New York Times, June 26, 1932, sec. II, p. 4. In the year ending in March 1932, New York City police reported 489 murders; there were seven murderers executed in the same time. New York Times. April 11, 1932, p. 7.
[38]New York Times, June 23,1934, p. 30; June 25,1934, p. 14.
[39]Mussolini's success in challenging the British in the Mediterranean and his overpowering of Ethiopia in 1935-1936, as well as flouting the League of Nations "sanction," infuriated a large sector of British opinion, and the reaction to him in most quarters was in the class with the incredulous stupefaction of the admiral of the fleet upon having soup poured down his back by a clumsy waiter. The systematic defamation of Italians was an outgrowth of the continuous detraction of Mussolini as an oaf and clown which grew in volume and intensity throughout the war. The universal character assassination of Italians probably reached a peak with the publication of Field Marshal Montgomery's memoirs in London in 1958, in which his imputation of cowardice on the part of Italian troops in North Africa during World War II so enraged nationalists that the leader of an Italian veterans' organization, Vincenzo Caputo, challenged him to a duel. Montgomery declined to take him up on it, and after a number of diplomatic and other protests from the Italian government and much mumbling from London, Montgomery "reappraised" his estimate of the Italian soldier and heaped belated approval upon him. New York Times, Nov. 7, 1958, p. 8; Nov. 12, 1958, p. 3. A recent book published in England seeks to reduce some of the misconceptions about Mussolini among the British, Roy MacGregor-Hastie's The Day of the Lion (London: MacDonald, 1963.)
[40]New York Times, Nov. 20, 1937, p. 5.
[41]Gosch and Hammer, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, pp. 260-262. Luciano went into detail as to his involvement in it from the start, along with Frank Costello and the Anastasia brothers, Albert, a major gunman in "Murder, Incorporated," and Anthony ("Tough Tony"), the latter a Mafia power controlling the International Longshoremen's Association. From Luciano's description the actual sabotage was engineered by the latter, with his brother Albert directing the overall strategy to maximize Navy fears of coming widespread destruction all along the New York waterfront. Luciano's explanation of what happened to the Normandie makes more sense than the opaque and evasive official excuses and explanations.
[42]On the substantial fortune Joe Valachi amassed just through manipulation of gasoline ration stamps see his brief admissions in Peter Maas, The Valachi Papers (New York: Putnam, 1969). Others whom Valachi implicated as becoming wealthy on criminal misuse of ration stamps alone, during World War II, included Carlo and Paul Gambino, who were estimated to have made well over a million dollars via this route, and the New Jersey gangster Sam Accardi. It was customary to obtain the stamps by theft from Office of Price Administration vaults or by bribing OPA personnel. See also chapter 9 in the symposium Mafia, U.S.A., "Carlo Gambino – Mafia Patriarch," by the editor, Nicholas Gage. In 1944 the national director of the Office of Price Administration, Chester Bowles, admitted that five percent of all gasoline sales was a black market operation, a figure which can be assumed to have been deliberately reduced to allay home front criticism and maximize cooperation with the "war effort." Since Valachi was a very minor participant in this aspect of organized crime's fortune-building via mass violation of the various economic restraints under the administration and surveillance of the OPA (among whose employees at one time were the famed economist Milton Friedman and former president Richard M. Nixon), it must be assumed that vastly larger sums were amassed by others. Just how much money was skimmed off during the war by the Mafia will never be known, since the beneficiaries of such operations rarely are known to betray themselves and provide the basic facts, but some estimates have been as high as $30 billion. As Ralph Salerno and John Tompkins put it, "World War II came as a godsend to the Mafia." Salerno and Tompkins, "After Luciano," in Cage, ed., Mafia, U.S.A., p. 100. For an expectable apologia alleging the efficient working of wartime price control, rationing and related apportionment of scarce goods see Marshall B. Clinard, The Black Market (New York: Rinehart, 1952).
[43]Smith, OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972), p. 105.
[44]Smith apparently knew nothing about organized crime, and identified the "Purple Gang" as from Philadelphia, though this sinister group was from Detroit. According to Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano (pp. 99, 110), the leader of this lot was one Abe Bernstein, and they originally specialized in smuggling quality whiskey across from Canada during Prohibition, purchased mainly from distilleries there headed by Samuel Bronfman and Louis Rosenstiel, later the presidents of Seagram Corporation and Schenley Corporation, respectively. The illegal operations of Bronfman and Rosenstiel and their gang connections are briefly described by Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, pp. 48, 65, 69, 174.
[45]Probably the first identification of Gurfein as a major in US Military Intelligence was made by Polakoff, a former US Attorney, in The New York Times, May 23, 1945, p. 7. For contradictory accounts of the entire complicated business involving the armed forces intelligence organizations, Luciano and various other underworld kingpins see H. Messick, Lansky, pp. 115-122, and Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, 262-272. Another aspect of the Gurfein-Luciano affair is briefly examined in Anthony Cave Brown, ed., The Secret War Report of the OSS (New York: Berkley Medallion Books, 1976), pp. 191-192, and Smith, OSS, p. 84. On Gurfein and the "Pentagon Papers" incident described below, see the footnote to the same page of Smith, OSS, above. Gurfein, elevated to a federal judgeship in June 1971, became famous for his first decision, in favor of The New York Times when the federal government sought to prevent that newspaper from printing the famed "Pentagon Papers," a decision which was later upheld by the US Supreme Court.
[46]Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, pp. 267, 369-370. One can understand in retrospect why those connected with Governor Dewey could contribute to the legend of "Lucky" Luciano as a decisive factor in the 1943 Sicily invasion, that is, to provide an excuse for his commuted sentence, but why any officer in the armed forces, any political figure either on the home front or in the Italian occupation, or any other person in mass communication, journalism or independent writing, could contribute to the promotion of this incredible fabrication, remains an imponderable.
[47]New York Times, April 24, 1937, p. 4. Luciano was so little known in New York that the Times spelled his name "Luciana" after police started looking for him in connection with the murder of "Dutch Schultz" (born Arthur Flegenheimer) in Newark, N.J., October 23, 1935. The Times got it right the following year, however, when he became front page news as the Dewey prosecution escalated. It might be pointed out that the police were not too far off in the first place, since Luciano's original name was Salvatore Lucania.
[48]For an extended exposition of the Luciano explanation of his situation as summarized above see Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, Chapters 19 and 20.
[49]Smith, OSS, pp. 83-86. Among other criminal elements recruited by the OSS in the Mediterranean theater were the ferocious underworld of Corsica, principally engaged in the narcotics trade by tradition. But the skills of many Corsican thugs were polished by OSS agents, mainly to aid in the bringing of weapons and ammunition to the preponderantly Stalinist French underground. The Corsican drug suppliers were still in business 30 years later, the main target of their supply now being the heroin addicts in the USA. On this repelling sidelight of World War II see the book by the former OSS agent Edward Hymoff, The OSS in World War II (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974.)
[50]Davis, Who Defends Rome?, p. 257.
[51]Davis, Who Defends Rome?, pp. 257-258. Davis deprecates the entire Sicily operation, insisting that all it did was to return the Mafia to control there even stronger than they had been before their suppression. He thought that a landing on the Italian peninsula north of Rome, or General Dwight D. Eisenhower's plan, an invasion of Corsica and Sardinia, instead of Sicily, would have been somewhat superior tactics. Davis did not identify Russo as a member of the Mafia, but apparently meant that this was to be assumed since he declares that Russo replaced Vizzini as the chief of the Sicilian Mafia scene upon the latter's death, in Palermo, on May 13, 1954 (Vizzini's demise noted in New York Times, May 14, 1954, p. 12). Davis in an earlier book alleged that Vizzini helped to finance Mussolini's "March on Rome" in 1922 which preceded the taking over of Italy by the Fascisti. His views on the Mafia as an intelligence assistance to the invasion by the "Allies" in this book do not tally with his reconsiderations in the later one, however. See Melton S. Davis, All Rome Trembled: The Strange Affair of Wilma Montesi (New York: Putnam, 1957), pp. 23-24.
[52]New York: Putnam, 1964. Lewis' book is one of the most quoted works dealing with the alleged influence of Mafia aid in the Sicilian invasion. A portion of this book was published as "The Mafia in Sicily," chapter 3 in Gage, ed., Mafia, U.S.A.
[53]Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, chapter 23.
[54]The same thing was done in Germany in 1945, under the impression that all inmates were (1) political prisoners, (2) Jews innocent of ever having done anything, or (3) prisoners of war, not realizing, or not being interested in knowing, that sections of these camps housed some of the most dangerous desperadoes in Europe. There was the same simpleminded shock over the sensational rise of murder and other violent crime in the countryside within a 20-mile radius of these camps shortly after.
[55]See especially in this instance the books by Michele Pantaleoni, The Mafia and Politics, first published in Italy in 1962, and in an English translation in New York by CowardMcCann in 1966, and From Caesar to the Mafia by Luigi Barzini (New York: Library Press, 1971). These writers, though anything but friendly to Mussolini, are understandably perturbed by the breathtaking ignorance and innocence of the "liberators." Others have made comical efforts to portray the Mafia as a righteous clan of freedom-lovers, veritable Angel Michaels destroying the many-headed serpent of Fascism. Their release from Mussolini's jails and penal camps is hailed in tones recalling the victories of Garibaldi, Mazzini and Cavour, and righteous lower lips tremble as the British and American authorities covered themselves with clown mantles in describing this lot of systematic murderers as terrorized martyrs. One may imagine the gales of raucous laughter sweeping through all levels of the "Brotherhood" upon the posting of this preposterous dictum.
Talese in Honor Thy Father (p. 60) innocently declares that the Mafia who became mayors of Sicilian communities were former "intelligence agents" of the Americans and "underground organizers" against the Fascist and Nazi forces, and were simply "rewarded with lawful authority." He also ascribes profound political beliefs to these Mafiosi mayors, who took these jobs not because it was essential to their reconstruction of the pre-1926 status quo but out of pure and zealous "anti-fascism" and "hatred of Mussolini." In these respects they should be bracketed with the Communists, therefore, since these were also their reasons for belonging in the armed opposition. Talese relates that Joe Bonanno and his Mafia friends gloated upon learning of Mussolini's murder by Communists in Milan. In many ways it was as grisly a horror as numerous sensational Mafia murders. In the killers of the Stalinist Italian Communist Party they probably recognized birds of a feather, having resembled a Mafia "hit" team in the way they took on this assignment.
Puzo in The Godfather (p. 328) repeated the story of the release of the Mafia from prison on the grounds that being imprisoned they must be "democrats." He calls this the Mafia's "good fortune" and the basic step which preceded their reconstruction and return to even more formidable power than that demonstrated down to 1926.
[56]It might be argued that the Occupation authorities had few choices when it came to replacing the Fascists in domestic political posts and power. In Sicily the Mafia were by far the overwhelming candidates, once they had been released from jail. In other parts of Italy, later, the Communists were the logical inheritors. Though there had been a towering volume of talk and print about a "democratic socialist" element which presumably bulked high as an anti-Mussolini adversary, it did not show very strongly in the 1943--45 period of political chaos in Italy. Though America was the home of several very voluble leftist refugees who strove to demonstrate that there was a vast "difference between their plans for Italy and those of the Reds," there is little evidence that the Anglo-American occupation decision-makers wanted much to do with them. Such castigators of Mussolini and postwar planners as Salvemini, Sforza, and Borghese were not brought back to Italy in triumph and political power, nor were the spiritual associates of Benedetto Croce, another great liberal hero.
[57]One of the most mischievous contributors to Sicily's political woes in the early years after its conquest was a Scottish pedagogue, George Robert Gayre. As an Occupation bureaucrat there he was one of the first to condemn Mussolini's campaign against the Mafia, though he also was one of the first to admit that within weeks they had returned to influence in Sicily equal in scope to the time prior to 1926. Liberal writers for a quarter of a century echoed his indignation at Mussolini's anti-Mafia procedures, as incorporated in his book Italy in Transition (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), a volume made up of quotations from his private diary. As a lieutenant-colonel in the British forces he had authored another contentious work, Teuton and Slav on the Polish Frontier (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1944), a study which pretended to be the long-awaited solution to the ancient and tangled ethnic claims in that region. On his return from Italy to Britain he devoted himself to writing on British heraldry and anthropology, and ultimately adopted the name "Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg."
[58]Business Week, March 13, 1943, p. 48. The situation which prevailed after the Germans moved in, following the eclipse of Mussolini in the summer of 1943, is instructive. The late Bruno Leoni, a postwar free market economist of international repute, told this writer in California in the summer of 1957 that in the summer of 1943 he became an intelligence operative for the "Allies," but that he periodically sneaked into German-occupied Bari, on Italy's East coast, for the purpose of obtaining an economical dinner. German price controls were rigidly enforced there, while in the areas in "Allied" hands where he had to function, a sky-high inflation made such an achievement quite impossible. Only purist zealots who have never been hungry and who do not know that their precious "laws" are almost entirely suspended in wartime fail to understand the substance of the above action.
[59]The equivalent in areas of France and Belgium occupied by US forces a year later was the comprehensive theft of Army supplies by American deserters for the supply of the black market in these regions. Steven Linakis incorporated material concerning such affairs in his novel In the Spring the War Ended (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965).
[60]New York Times, Sept. 10, 1943, p. 4.
[61]Editorial, New York Times, Sept. 11, 1943, p. 12.
[62]New York Times, Nov. 19, 1944, sec. VI, p. 50.
[63]New York Times, Oct. 31, 1944, p. 8.
[64]New York Times, Jan. 5, 1945, p. 4.
[65]For example, New York Times, Feb. I, 1945, p. 8.
[66]New York Times, Nov. 25, 1944, p. 5.
[67]Frank J. Prial, "Vito Genovese – Power to Spare," in Cage, ed., Mafia, U.S.A., pp. 147-148.
[68]This was Genovese's second trip to Italy in the 1930s. The first had occurred in 1933, a honeymoon vacation to Naples with his wife, Anna. Valachi is the source for an allegation that Genovese on this first voyage took three quarters of a million dollars with him to bribe functionaries of the Mussolini regime. Though there are several who insist that Dewey was about to concentrate on the prosecution of Genovese after Luciano's jailing, there is no mention of Genovese in the New York Times for either 1936 or 1937, at which time press coverage of the Dewey crime hunt was voluminous.
[69]Early in 1944 Army Criminal Investigation (CID) operatives began picking up black marketeers in Italy who named Genovese as the mastermind of their operations. Genovese came under the personal scrutiny of Sergeant Orange C. Dickey of the Army CID, who gradually put together the material which revealed the true scope of his multimillion dollar ring based on the theft of products from the base at which he worked as an advisor and interpreter. It is quite likely that theArmy would have dropped the charges against Genovese had not Sgt. Dickey learned that the Boccia case had been reopened as a result of new testimony, and that the Brooklyn authorities were again looking for Genovese. See Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, pp. 273-274, and F. Prial, "Vito Genovese," in N. Gage, ed., Mafia, U.S.A., pp. 147-148.
[70]See the embarrassing testimonials to Genovese's sterling qualities by his superiors, Captain Charles L. Dunn, Major E. N. Holmgren, and Major Stephen Young, reproduced in Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, p. 273.
[71]New York Times, June 3, 1945, p. 26; For more about the Boccia slaying, see Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, pp. 177-178,274; James Mills, "The Hit," in Gage, ed., Mafia, U.S.A., pp. 25-55, and Prial, "Vito Genovese," same work, pp. 147-148.
[72]Genovese's trial was delayed in about the same way as his extradition. New York Times, Oct. 19, 1945, p. 19. This story retold his exploits as an interpreter for American Military Government and "boss of a gang of Italian black market operators."
[73]See New York Times, May 7, 1946, p. 11; June 8, 1946, p. 38; June 11, 1946, p. 46; July 16, 1946, p. 15; Sept. 17, 1946, p. 2. See also the works cited in note 71.
[74]One of the most wearily-repeated yarns among Mafia chroniclers is the allegation concerning Genovese following his return to Italy in 1937 to evade prosecution for various major crimes committed in the USA. How he obtained II passport so easily and so quickly under these pending circumstances is unexplained by anyone, and is not mentioned in a single source consulted in the preparation of this study. The federal government did try to deport him in 1952, however, for concealing his criminal record when he applied for citizenship in 1936. (New York Times, Nov. 22, 1952, p. 12.)
The assertions of Luciano and Valachi and the second hand testimony of a wronged wife appear to be the main evidence that he became a person of substance in Mussolini Italy and an intimate with persons high in the regime. (On Anna Genovese's suit, first for separate maintenance, then divorce, her testimony before a New Jersey grand jury, Vito Genovese's counter-divorce suit and the dismissal of both by the court, see New York Times, Dec. 10, 1952, p. 55; March 3, 1953, p. 19; March 20, 1953, p. 20; August 20, 1953, p. 29.) No one alleges that he created a criminal empire there in the six years prior to the overthrow of Mussolini and the entry upon the scene of the Anglo-American "liberators" in 1943.
What is evident however is that within a few months of the latter event Genovese organized an impressive ring of professional criminality in Italy in some areas occupied by Mussolini's conquerors, at the same time penetrating the latter to the point of becoming a part of the Military Government. This is a disconcerting fact, and all accounts of the Mafia cover this over quickly and heavily, concentrating on a narrative of his pursuit by Army CID. But nothing is said about how a man as notorious as Genovese was able to achieve this status and at the same time conceal his incredible crime operation, which he managed simultaneously in the same area where he performed his chores for Military Government. Though his alleged eminence in the Mussolini social court is subject to serious question (nothing is said of it in contemporary accounts), his taking on of a cover job in American Military Government to mask a lucrative criminal operation in the American-occupied sector of Italy is well documented.
The reason for the glacial slowness with which extradition proceedings back to the USA were transacted is another episode in the Genovese saga which is almost entirely lacking from the conventional accounts. The attempt to build up Genovese as someone of influence among the Fascisti has a hollow sound. But if it were true, then allowing him to obtain a confidential post in the Military Government so quickly would indicate a level of serious incompetence in "Allied" counterintelligence.
[75]Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano, p. 275.
[76]New York Times, May 23, 1945, p. 7.
[77]New York Times, Jan. 4, 1946, p. 38.
[78]New York Times, Feb. 9, 1946, p. 15; Feb. 10, 1946, p. 12; Feb. 11, 1946, p. 31; Feb. 21, 1946,p.24.
[79]New York Times, March 1, 1946, p. 11. Luciano's own colorful story of the trip back to Italy and his reception is in chapter 24 of Gosch and Hammer, Lucky Luciano.
[80]On Lt. Col. Gurfein's later comments on Luciano's involvement in contacting Mafia leaders for help in counter-espionage during the war, see New York Times , Feb. 23, 1947, pp. 1, 9; On Haffenden's later comment on Luciano's assistance, see New York Times, Feb. 27, 1947, p. 46.
[81]By this time Haffenden was himself in a big scandal (actually two separate ones) related to deals with outlawed stevedoring companies on the New York docks, and New York's Mayor O'Dwyer had already removed him from his post as commander of the City Marine and Aviation Department. Haffenden was dismissed by O'Dwyer on May 24, 1946. See New York Times, May 25, 1946 p. 30, and May 26, 1946, p. 0. This rancorous incident was still being churned over by all concerned in 1949.
[82]Sen. Kefauver's comment on Gov. Dewey's handling of the Luciano case in New York Times, May 15, 1951, p. 27. See also one of the contemporary books on the Mafia, Edward Reid's Mafia (New York: Random House, 1952).
[83]New York Times, Jan. 31, 1946, p. 2; Feb. 5, 1946, p. 7.
[84]See especially New York Times, Oct. 27, 1946, p. 23; Oct. 31, 1946, p. 2.
[85]On the drive against Salvatore Giuliani, see New York Times, June 13, 1950, p. 12; Sept. 21, 1946, p. 4; June 24, 1947, p. 14; Sept. 22, 1947, p. 3; See also New York Times, June 25, 1947, p. 16; June 26, 1947, p. 4; June 28, 1947, p. 4; Nov. 22, 1947, p. 2; Sept. 24, 1948, p. 8; May 16, 1949, p. 11.
On the killing of Giuliani in July 1950, see New York Times, July 6,1950, p. 1; On the repercussions of the killing, and the buildup of the scandal see New York Times, March 19, 1954, p. 2, and Melton S. Davis, All Rome Trembled: The Strange Affair of Wilma Montesi (New York: Putnam, 1957), pp. 137-139.
On the trial of 63 members of Giuliani's gang, see New York Times, May 14, 1954, p. 5.
The Wilma Montesi scandal was brewing simultaneously with the closing stages of the Giuliani business, and in some respects overlapped. The closing chapters of Davis, All Rome Trembled, contain the most extended examination of the ramifications of the Montesi matter. His study unfortunately lacks an index, and one must wade through much extraneous material in getting at the core of the issue involved.
[86]On the persistence of the Mafia in Sicily in recent times, see Danilo Dolci, The Man Who Plays Alone (New York: Pantheon Books, 1969), and Gaia Servadio, Mafioso: A History of the Mafia from Its Origins to the Present Day (New York: Stein and Day, 1976).

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): James Joseph Martin
Title: The Death and Life of the Mafia in Italy, From Suppression by Mussolini to Revival by 'Liberation,' 1926-1946
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 15, no. 3 (May/June 1995), pp. 2-22; slightly abridged version of an essay in J.J. Martin, The Saga of Hog Island, Ralph Myles, 1977.
  • Mark Weber: inserted essay on "America's Changing View of Mussolini and Italian Fascism," not included here.
Published: 1977-01-01
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 18, 2012, 6 p.m.
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